Extracted from apricots, peaches, and almonds, Laetrile is one of the most controversial cancer treatments to approach the mainstream. The American Cancer Society’s entry on it, which reads as ambivalent to suspicious, concludes, “Relying on this type of treatment alone, and avoiding or delaying conventional medical care for cancer, may have serious health consequences.”
In Eric Merola’s Second Opinion: Laetrile at Sloan-Kettering, the question of the drug’s efficacy takes a backseat to the story of whistle-blower Ralph Moss, a science writer at Memorial Sloan-Kettering Cancer Center, who exposed the organization’s attempt to squash promising research on the drug in the mid-1970s.
Like many docs with activist undertones, Second Opinion tells a potentially interesting story in a bland way — a fixed camera on its main subject, who recounts the story detail by detail. (There are some info graphics and archival footage thrown in for good measure, of course.)
Moss frames the early stages of the War on Cancer in the context of the powerlessness felt by Americans in the midst of that other war going on in the late ’60s and early ’70s, a fascinating thread that, like too many others in the film, is unraveled too quickly.